To mark the start of Lancashire’s 3 months of United Resistance, Zoe Rasbash lays out the history of Fracking in the UK and beyond.
Over the last decade, fracking has saturated the UK energy debate. Public protests are on the rise and the media is flip-flopping all over the place, ‘we love it’, ‘we hate it’, ‘it’s for the good of the country!’, ‘it’s going to poison us!’. As far as continuity goes, it’s hard to keep track of what the frack is going on.
This blog will outline how we got here and why, despite what our government may be telling us, fracked natural gas is NOT the solution to our energy problems.
Fracking in its current form didn’t really begin until the 1990s. This involved a complex process which combined horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, but basically enabled energy companies to sell it to governments as the new and improved super efficient energy source that they desperately needed.
It was a game changer: a relatively cheap fossil fuel which could aid energy independence… or so they said. Everyone was onboard with fracked natural gas. The US started fracking everywhere. It was tapped as a ‘clean and safe’ energy source as the carbon emissions were supposedly half that of coal. Praised as a technological breakthrough, fracking was pitched to us as environmental and economic revolution. The UK wanted a piece of the action.
But locals living on fracked land were not so sure. In 2010, Josh Fox released Gasland, a documentary following his journey meeting communities across the US impacted by fracking. Families explained how the contamination of the air and water had lead to chronic health issues. Residents claimed energy companies had given settlements, and sometimes even water purification kits, to shut them up. The tide was starting to turn.
Gasland had started something. In 2011, the UK group Frack Off began an extensive campaign in Blackpool after an independent report named the fracking in Lancashire the cause of two earthquakes. In 2012, 5,000 demonstrators in Barlad, Romania, took to the streets to protest the dangerous groundwater pollution caused by extensive fracking operations in the area.
Other unforeseen consequences arose, with depleting water supplies in 55% of Americas fracked areas. The process uses high pressure water to create fissures in deep-rock formations to release the natural gas, and in Texas alone, almost 50bn gallons of water were used for the fracking operations.
But fracked gas is still a low carbon emitter? Better than coal, right? Wrong. The original calculations hadn’t considered the strength of methane, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in a 20 year period. And let us not forget, even if the emissions are low – fracked natural gas is still nonrenewable! The mounting environmental and social impacts of fracking are too difficult to ignore.
Once you understand the consequences fracking has had on communities, you can see why our governments pro-fracking stance is so frustrating – and why protesters will not give up the fight!
We have seen some amazing demonstrations by the global anti-fracking community, from Vivian Westwood driving a tank onto David Cameron’s land to the tireless protestors at Preston New Road in Lancashire. And we have watched as governments respond – France, Germany and Scotland have all banned fracking until there is proof it doesn’t ‘massacre’ the landscape and ‘decimate’ public health.
Meanwhile, in England, the blind narrative of ‘clean gas’ continues. There are now over 250 local groups fighting fracking in the UK. Yet, at COP23, UKYCC saw UK representatives backing natural gas as the solution to our energy crises. The government continues to persuade us that the only path to a clean future involves creating permanent fracking infrastructure along the way.
We are asking the UK Gov to stop telling us how great fracking is – the history books prove them wrong.